Blog

Program Tackles Mental Health Talk at Arizona Schools

18February
2018

Thanks to a new program, mental health is starting to be discussed more in Arizona schools starting this year. There are currently no standards for mental health education in Arizona schools. But some school districts are taking the issue into their own hands and changing the current system by opening up the conversation on mental health.

“Ending the Silence”: A New School Program

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 10 to 24 year olds in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, around 18 percent of Americans suffer with a mental illness. That is why they have started the program, “Ending the Silence”. The program consists of a classroom presentation for middle and high school students to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

The Program has Already Been Adopted into Several Schools Throughout Southern Arizona

Arizona is planning to expand the program across even more schools in the state. It has already received positive and encouraging feedback from participating students, with 19 percent reporting that is has made them take action to get help. Take home handouts are also available to help students feel more comfortable about openly discussing the topic with their parents. The stigma surrounding mental health has been an issue causing teens and young adults to feel embarrassed or ashamed, preventing them from talking about it.

Some School Districts are Also Starting to Require Health Education

There were 47 reported suicides in Arizona in the year 2015 and 98 percent of them were found to have been preventable. Because of this, some school districts are creating health education classes as required credits to expose students to more mental health education. Arizona schools are hoping that by opening up the conversation about mental health, more students will understand it and feel more comfortable asking for help.

Photo by Michal Jarmoluk

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , |

Are Arizona Prisoners Being Treated Properly for Mental-Health Issues?

18January
2018

Photo courtesy of: Jim Jackson

In the recent years, the Arizona Department of Corrections has been held accountable for improper treatment regarding health issues of all kinds. In an effort to improve the situation, a court order was placed on the Arizona prison system. However, the order has been ignored so many times that a United States judge has considered holding the prison system in contempt of court. 

There has been countless cases of the prison system failing to treat physical issues, and it seem apparent that mental-health issues are not being treated properly either. For Arizona prisoners struggling with mental illnesses such as bipolar or schizophrenia, it is difficult for them to get on the right medication and properly treat and diagnose their serious medical conditions.

One inmate who suffers from bipolar disorder, describes the quality of mental-health treatment in the prisons as poor and not improving. He went on to describe the doctor visits as the opposite of therapeutic. Victims of mental-health issues in Arizona prisons generally only see a doctor once every three months, often for just three minutes. These serious conditions require much more care and consideration while being treated, and this treatment has been described by many to be inadequate and unhelpful.

Since prisoners usually do not see the same doctor, a plethora of different medications may be prescribed to one individual. People suffering from mental-health issues need to be put on a long-term plan so they can manage their lives to the best of their ability. People have begun voicing their concerns about the impossibility of managing serious mental-health issues without stability or true guidance in the Arizona prison systems.

The most troubling aspect is that many of these prisoners are scared to speak out because they fear harsh punishment. This prevents progress from happening, and allows the Arizona prison system to continue their unlawful health practices.

Photo by Jim Jackson

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , |

Arizona Raises Awareness for Mental Illness

18December
2017

Candlelight Celebration For Mental Illness Awareness

Every year, a candlelight celebration is held to raise awareness for mental health in downtown Phoenix. The Mental Health Awareness Coalition and Arizona State University Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy hosted the 22nd annual celebration this year with the theme of embracing the journey that mental health has put many people on. While mental health is a difficult thing to deal with and can cause serious pain, it is important to celebrate those who have conquered or who have begun to get in control of their mental health and to honor the journey they have been on because of it.

Aside from bringing awareness to and celebrating mental health, this event provides Valley residents with a number of resources for those who need or know someone who needs help with mental illness. At the event, attendees have the opportunity to speak to the representatives of many different organizations that provide help and resources to valley residents struggling with mental illness. This event is so helpful because it shows people what types of help are out there and it allows them to gain information all in one place.

Arizona’s Lack Of Mental Health Care

Although this event and others like it are designed to provide resources to those in need of mental health guidance, access to mental health care is still lacking. According to Mental Health America, Arizona ranks 40th in the country’s access to mental health care. One of the biggest problems is de-stigmatizing mental health and mental health education.

Events like the one held by The Mental Health Awareness Coalition and Arizona State University Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy are a great step in the right direction because they spread awareness throughout communities. Not many people feel comfortable talking about mental health, but having events that celebrate it encourages them to do so. The more people that are educated about mental health the more progress that can be made.

Photo by Andreas Lischka

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , |

Tent City to Become Rehab Center

18November
2017

Since the infamous Tent City was recently shut down, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that an air-conditioned space previously apart of the jail will be turned into a facility to help treat those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Transforming Tent City into a rehabilitation center is apart of an ongoing effort to help keep repeat offenders out of the prison system and will help them live normal, productive lives.

The rehabilitation center will have space for classrooms and places to sleep. Sheriff Paul Penzone recently spoke about the new facility and said, “we want to ensure that [chronic offenders] have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail. I hope that all those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.” Penzone hopes to reduce the rate of recidivism and come up with solutions that will get to the root of the problems many repeat offenders face such as drug addiction and mental illness.

There are also plans for a proposal that would include an employment center for inmates, as well as a community corrections center. Both of these announcements quickly followed the retirement of Tent City. Not only will the changes being made help repeat offenders in the long run, it will also reduce spending by almost $5 million each year. Penzone also hopes that the investments being made will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

The rehabilitation inmate program is seven weeks long and will help inmates to identify early trauma and patterns of behavior. These services will benefit many people who most likely do not have the resources to visit specialists on their own. Once the program is over, the inmates will be given resources to help make sure they have opportunities to succeed when they are out in the real world.

Photo by Лечение Наркомании

Posted in Arizona, Drug Crimes, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged , , , , |

Arizona Prisons Struggle with Rise in Inmate Self-Harm

18October
2017

As the mental health care in state prisons becomes increasingly worse, more and more inmates are attempting to harm themselves. New reports on inmate self-harm have come in as a result of the ADC attempting to settle a lawsuit over poor health conditions in state prisons. According to the data, hundreds of inmates in Arizona prisons have hurt themselves and tried to take their own lives this year. 

Mental Health in Arizona Prisons

Inmate self-harm has increased dramatically in the past year due to the lack of mental health care in state prisons. According to the ADC report, total incidents have increased by 70 percent. Over 80 inmates have tried to hang themselves and more than 138 have tried to overdose. The number of inmates using blunt force trauma such as banging their head against the wall of inserting sharp objects into their bodies to harm themselves has also almost tripled in just one year.

What this problem comes down to is the understaffing of health-care professionals in state prisons. For example, the state prison in Douglas, AZ has no medical director and just one psych associate. There’s just not enough care about mental and physical health in the state prison system and therefore no one is worried about getting resources into the prisons to help people get better. 

The state prison in Phoenix, which was designed for seriously mentally ill inmates, has less than half of the psychiatric staff that was supposed to be employed there, as well as having no psychiatric director and no mental health director.

In attempts fix the self-harm problem, the state is now training personnel on how to handle inmate self-harm incidents. They have also started a program to help watch and transition inmates back into the population after they’ve harmed themselves.

According to the ACD, the year 2018 is already on track to be the worst in inmate self-harm.

Photo courtesy of Pavlofox

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Arizona Moving To Add AHCCCS Five-Year Limits

18September
2017

Arizona is moving to tighten requirements for Medicaid eligibility. It could become one of the first states to impose work requirements and five-year lifetime limits on “able-bodied” adult enrollees. While this plan has been delayed for over 5  months, the Trump administration appears to be favorable to the plan and the state hopes to get their answer in 2018.

What Does “Able-Bodied” Mean?

Abled-bodied is defined by the law as anyone over the age of 19 who is mentally and physically capable of having a job. Under this new requirement, anyone who is judged to be mentally healthy enough to work a job can only be covered by Medicaid for 5 years in their entire life.

There are exceptions to the able-bodied requirement for people in certain circumstances. These exceptions apply to anyone who is still in high school at or after age 19, sole caregivers of children under age 6, anyone who qualifies for the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) and anyone already receiving long-term disability. For people with the above circumstances that may be able to be insured by Medicaid for longer than 5 years.

What Does This Mean For Mental Health?

If you are determined by a medical health care professional to be mentally unfit for employment, you can still apply for Medicaid and may be eligible for longer than five years. The draft of the new law is not specific enough yet to list what determines a person’s mental health status. It does not exempt people with disabilities and mental-health issues.

Other Provisions To The Law

The draft of the new law contains other provisions for people who are eligible to receive Medicaid. They include:

  • Enrollees would be required to verify that they are meeting the work requirement and any changes in family income on a monthly basis.
  • The ability to ban enrollees for a year if they knowingly fail to report a change in family income or make false statements about their compliance with work requirements.

Photo by Paul Fearn

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , |

Mental Health Stigmas

16August
2017

Estimated to affect one in four Americans on average, mental illness is often considered to be a silent epidemic. Mental health stigma is a term used when people experiencing mental health issues are perceived negatively because of their condition, and may even face discrimination. Continue reading to learn about ways in which mental health is stigmatized, why this may make treatment more difficult, and what can be done to change society’s outlook on mental health.

How is Mental Health Stigmatized?

Mental health stigma exists in the workplace, in social settings, and even at the doctor’s office. People suffering from mental health issues generally hide their illness from coworkers in fear of losing their job or the respect of their peers. When people learn their significant other, family member, or friend is suffering from a mental illness, they may subconsciously withhold contact or look at them in a less favorable light. Studies also show that doctors are much less likely to follow up with patients battling depression compared with patients battling a physical illness.

Why Does Mental Health Stigma Make Treatment Increasingly Difficult?

Mental health problems do not discriminate and can affect anyone. People suffering from mental health issues may find themselves in a cycle of unstable relationships, difficulty finding and keeping jobs, and even homelessness. Finding a treatment plan that works can be difficult enough without having to deal with the constant fear of rejection and humiliation which often comes along with mental illness. People may avoid treatment in fear of people discovering their mental illness. When people suffering from mental illness feel ostracized, this acts as a catalyst for their condition to become worse.

What Can be Done to Prevent Mental Health Stigma?

In order to put an end to mental health stigma, people need to be educated on the various forms of mental illness. Many people assume mental illness sufferers are dangerous and violent, creating untrue stereotypes and judgements. Schools and workplaces need to improve mental health programs to educate the public and provide support for people who are suffering from mental illness, as well as the people who are affected by it.

Photo by Wokandapix

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , |

Bernardo Garcia is Phoenix’s Attorney of the Month, July 2017

10August
2017

Providing Justice for Phoenix-area Mentally Ill.

Bernardo’s Criminal Defense practice is unique in the Phoenix area. He is featured as the Attorney of the Month. Read his story online on Attorney At Law Magazine  or download the PDF.

Attorney at Law Magazine, phoenix mental health defense attorney
attorney at law magazine's attorney of the month

Posted in Arizona | Tagged , , , |

New AZ Supreme Court Ruling On Insanity Defense

18July
2017

A new Supreme Court Ruling was decided earlier this month that says a defendant pleading insanity and voluntarily undergoing a mental health exam must provide the results to the prosecutor of the case.

The ruling also states that the defendant with a mental health defense must include a statement about their impending charges. The prosecutors are not allowed to use this statement to prove guilt but they are able to use this statement to rebut the defendant’s insanity claims.

The new ruling calls into question whether requiring disclosure violates the defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. But the ruling released by the Supreme Court states that no rights are violated by this decision. This is because defendants claiming insanity have waived their protection against self-incrimination.

The ruling was issued in the case of Josh Rasmussen awaiting trial in a 2013 Glendale homicide case. The decision was unanimous.

What Does This Mean For Others With A Mental Health Defense?

Claiming to be insane during the time that you committed a crime is not always an easy thing to do. In claiming that, you are saying that you did, in fact, commit the crime. But you are also trying to prove that you were not in your right mind when the crime happened and that you’d like to get treatment rather than be incarcerated. It’s not a get out of jail free card and it’s not taken lightly.

Now, with this new ruling, you must give all records from you mental health exams to the prosecutor of your trial. If you are mentally ill, the records will show that. If you have a good mental health defense attorney on your side this will only help your case. Contact us if you need an expert on your side.

Photo by Phil Roeder

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , |

La Paz County Votes To Lower Mental Illness In Jails

21June
2017

A unanimous vote taken by the La Paz County Board of Supervisors early this month will commit them to a national incentive aimed at reducing the number of mentally ill people in county jails.

Stepping Up Initiative

La Paz CountyStepping Up is a national initiative dedicated to reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails. Each year in the United States, there are an estimated 2 million people with mental illness admitted to county jails. Jails now house more mentally ill people than psychiatric hospitals.

This creates a number of problems that Stepping Up is dedicated to fixing. The majority of mentally ill people winding up in jail suffer from drug and alcohol problems, and they are more likely to return to jail upon release than those without these illnesses.

Jails spend two to three times more money on people with mental illnesses, costing taxpayers even more. Although resources are limited and a great amount of change is required to improve the jail system, Stepping Up is the first step to improvement.

The county’s decision makes La Paz the 15th Arizona County to join the Stepping Up initiative and makes Arizona the first state to have all of its counties join.

A board member of David’s Hope, a mental health advocacy organization that leads the Arizona Mental Health Criminal Justice Coalition, Steven Harvey said that this is only the first step. A lot of follow-up work has to be put in by everyone involved. The county’s next steps are to begin working with their mental health system on ways to treat people with mental health illnesses that have committed a small crime. The goal is to get them into a treatment program where they can recover, rather than sticking them in jail where they’ll just get worse.

Mental health care centers are already ready to work with the county’s jails in treating adults with mental illness.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , |